This summer, Neighborhood North pivoted again as we recognized the impact a rapid transition to online learning had on our low-status communities. Like many others, our school district was unprepared to make that swift transition, and student learning bore much of the weight. Neighborhood North felt we could use our network of partnerships to support some of our more at-risk learners during the summer months. In June, we put aside the online STEM workshops, and Neighborhood North, Trails Ministries, and Big Beaver Falls Area School District developed a Community Summer Learning Program that offered small-group tutoring sessions, STEM programming, and family engagement events to families living in local public housing communities.
The Community Summer Learning Program ran for 5 weeks and served 60 K-5th grade children and 10 families with approximately 98% being African-American or biracial. The success of the program can be measured both through the lens of academic and social support provided to the children and families. Using the DIBELS as a benchmark test, the program was able to help participating at-risk children maintain and even improve their reading skills during a time that usually sees a drop in such scores. A third set of DIBELS tests will be performed on students who attended this program mid-year to ascertain the long-lasting impact, if any, of participation in the summer program. Just as importantly, the program provided children with a structured informal environment and positive connection with their teachers and peers in which they were able to flourish as a social learner. It was interesting to note that many students who were not initially happy to attend a tutoring program in the summer were looking forward to coming back by the end of week two. Finally, we were able to spend time listening to the needs and concerns of students, parents, and educators around the challenges of online schooling last spring and the opening of schools in the fall.
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Honoring Fred Rogers, creator of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood, "Won't You Be My Neighbor Day" is on March 20th. Neighborhood North will dedicate the full week of March 20-25 to exploring emotions through mask-making in the Maker Space, followed by stage or puppet show performances.